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First demonstration of power beamed to camera via ambient wi-fi signals has significant potential in Internet of Things.

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To fix this, the research team modified standard wi-fi hotspots and routers to broadcast noise when a channel was not being used to send data. This meant the power of the wi-fi signals stayed constant and, though low, was high enough to power some components.

Adding the noise did little to slow data rates across hotspots, said the team.

The team used the power beaming system to run a temperature sensor and a small surveillance camera that both sat several metres away from a wi-fi hotspot.

The low-power camera gathered energy from wi-fi and stored it in a capacitor that prompted the camera to take a picture when it was charged. By leaching off the ambient radio signals, the camera gathered enough energy every 35 minutes to take a snap.

Could be very useful in Internet of Things:

Wi-fi signals have been used to beam power to a surveillance camera.

The battery-free camera was modified so it could scavenge power from ambient wi-fi signals, store it and then use it to take photos.

The experiment was one of several by US researchers looking at ways to use wi-fi as a power source.

The team behind the project believes its techniques will be useful for powering the many devices expected to form the "internet of things".

Power is what's currently limiting the Internet of Things.

One of the most significant barriers to deploying sensors, cameras, and communicators is the question of power. The task of fitting a security camera on an external wall or a temperature sensor in an attic immediately runs into the question of how to run a power cable to the device or to arrange for batteries to be replaced on a regular basis.

Then there is the Internet of things, the idea that almost every object could be fitted with a chip that broadcasts data such as its location, whether it is full or empty or whether some other parameter such as temperature or pressure is dangerously high or low.

Great things are expected of the Internet of things but only if engineers can solve one potential show-stopper of a question: how to power these numerous tiny machines.

Read more at MIT TR:

Reddit comments:

This reminds me of some of the ideas Tesla (the man not the company) had around powering machines through the air with electricity. It also reminds me of some stories I heard about the last really big solar flare well prior to extensive electrification. I don't recall the dates, but I believe sometime in the 1800s, where the only extensively used electrical devices were telegraphs, the electrical energy in the atmosphere was enough to power them.

Amazing how we lost a hundred years but are now back to many of his ideas. 

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